By Sharon Toji
Access Communications, our ADA consulting company, has been working on a new tactile font for the InvisiTouch(tm) process. The inspiration for the process is the 2010 ADA Standard for Accessible Design, which allows dual purpose room identification signs. These signs have a visual message that allows the use of larger, bolder type, upper and lower case letters, slightly closer kerning, non-decorative serif fonts if desired, and requires high contrast and non-glare surfaces. The message must be repeated, either on the same plaque or a separate plaque, with readable raised uppercase characters accompanied by rounded braille. These letters require no contrast, glare is not a problem, and they can be as small as 1/2 inch in height and must be spaced far apart. Very thin strokes are encouraged. Rounded and beveled shapes can be used for the strokes.
When Roger Whitehouse of Whitehouse and Company, who first thought of this idea when he was working with the Lighthouse in New York City, worked with groups of blind people for two years, he found that touch readers need small, thin rounded characters with wide spacing. He called it a “wire hanger shaped letter.” Our font is based on that idea.
We sent a file to AccuBraille with the uppercase alphabet, along with the numbers and some punctuation marks. We’re starting with a choice for a few characters, because we want to find out if people who are blind can read an open four, or a closed four more easily, as one example. AccuBraille responded with wonderful font cards made of black Kydex. All the characters are perfectly rounded. The strokes are only 1/16th wide, and the characters are 1/2 inch high. Of course there is no contrast, but that’s not important
for touch readers.
We’ve already shown them to four blind and vision impaired individuals, who are taking them to show to others in their groups. We already can tell, though, that we have a real winner in this font, coupled with the AccuBraille thermoformed technique. One of the men, who has never had vision, was amazed at how easily he could read the tactile characters. Normally, he only reads braille. They compared these characters with some other tactile signs, which normally would be considered very good quality. (In others words, they had a nice bevel, with no sharp edges.) All of them found the InvisiTouch(tm) characters much easier to read.
Once we’ve made the final decision on the characters for which we have choices, we’ll be making this font available for designers working with thermoformed signs.
Stay tuned for more on special techniques using the new rules with thermoformed signs!
The ADA Sign Lady